John’s Signs of Enlightenment: The Second Sunday of Christmas January 3rd 2016
The Second Sunday of Christmas January 3rd 2016
Jeremiah 31:7-14 Psalm 147:12-20 Ephesians 1:3-14 John 1:1-18e
John’s Signs of Enlightenment
This is the third time the introduction or Prologue of John has come up in our recent lessons. In our adult studies Sunday mornings at quarter of nine, we’ll be looking closer at this very important Gospel. I’ll use some verses as building blocks to understand God’s Word for us. Don’t forget that it is the 7th Day of Christmas and considering “the Word become flesh” keeps us in the glow and the light of Christmas.
“The word became flesh and dwelt among us.” “Flesh” in Hebrew is their idiomatic way of referring to human beings. “All flesh is grass …the grass withers” and dies. That means human beings are mortal. Thus it means that the word or logos in Greek became a human being. That verse has to be seen in the light of John 3:16:
For God so loved the world, that God gave God’s only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him, will not perish but receive everlasting life.
Thus the good news is that the way God’s heart ached for the Hebrew slaves suffering in Egypt, now God’s heart ached with so much love for all of us sinners that God self-differentiated into the Father and Son and became one of us in Christ. (I think I can use that term.) John has a very high Christology. The Word or the second person of the most Holy Trinity was God and with God at the creation. A low Christology is Adoptionist, that God saw how good Jesus was and adopted him as a Son. John begs to differ.
Now this Prologue is like a flashlight whose beam shines through the whole Gospel, just like God thought through the whole creation, through the redemption brought by God’s Son, Jesus, all the way through our salvation in the Holy Spirit.
In the incarnation heaven and earth become one. That’s why the shepherds could see the angels on Bethlehem’s hills. And we somehow become taken into God, taken into the Blessed Trinity. Each Person of the Holy Trinity dances mutually in the other Persons and their predominant assignment. So the Son is also completely involved in the creation. Perichoresis is the great word for this dance in the wonderful mutuality of the communion of the Persons of the Trinity with their involvement in each other. The word “perichoresis” comes from the Greek. And then Jesus includes us saying:
On that day you will know that I am in the Father and you in me and I in you. (and then some chapters later) As you, Father are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us…The glory that you have given me, I have given them, so that they may be one as we are one. I in them and you in me that they may become completely one…
We too are caught up in the perichoresis of the Holy Trinity, so that our empathy with each other, our communion, mean that our selves completely are in there with each other to shoulder each other’s burdens.
Roughly, the Gospel of John moves from the Prologue to the Book of Signs, ending with the Passion story. Remember how the Prologue says, “In the beginning was the Word and that Word was with God” from the very foundation of the world. The Son is the Word of God, the Light of the world. In the words of the Psalm,
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!…For with you is the fountain of life and in your light we see light.
That is the light which existed before the creation of the sun, moon, and stars: the fountain or source of all our lives and our sentient consciousness, and the birth of love. The One from heaven brought even our material and natural world into existence, because our text says, through the Logos all things were created and without him not one thing was created, to translate the Greek somewhat differently.
According to a theologian, Teilhard de Chardin, the birth of life was followed by the birth of thought, which was followed by the birth of love. But that loving creative Word was there at the beginning, so love gave birth to life, which gave birth to thought. Then our text states, the One, who was the true light, come into the world to enlighten everyone.
We sing, “This little light of mine,I’m going to let it shine, ” but did you consider that we receive enlightenment in Christ?
Here’s where John’s signs come in. The other gospels call the acts Jesus performed miracles, but John calls them signs, which for him are not merely miracles, but significant acts, which for our seeing eyes and understanding minds symbolize eternal realities.
In John’s book of signs, Jesus begins by changing water into wine, which is his first sign, showing that the Old Testament is now transformed into the New, the law of Moses is fulfilled in the truth and grace of Christ, the commandments replaced by the promises of God that give us the strength to fulfill them. The whole quality of our existence and all our relationship are transformed, like water compared to wine. Then Jesus heals a boy through his access to the fountain of life. Later he raised Lazarus from the dead and even is raised by God himself. But he always cries out, “Those who have ears to hear, let them hear!” In his signs he opens the ears of the deaf, opens the eyes of the blind, and opens the minds and hearts of the people, so that they, in that day and we today, become enlightened by the love and light by which Christ Jesus lived. He heals a person who is paralyzed, meaning that we too can be empowered to do all kinds of creative and good works.
Our prayer for the day emphasized “doing,” i.e., that “we reflect the light of the incarnate word in all that we do.” But we first have to reflect that light in all that we are.
Mary and Joseph found no room at the inn. We have to pray: “Come into my heart, Lord Jesus, there’s room in my heart for you.” We have to accept him as opposed to his coming into his own and his own people not accepting him. But all of us receiving him, who believe in his name, Jesus gives the power to become the children of God, who are not born merely naturally, but born of God, born from above, born of heaven.
That means where our natural parents left off, where their up-bringing ran out, God starts bringing us up. That is where we can be sure of experiencing growing pains. I remember in the throes of the inner-city ministry how we exclaimed, “My mother never said it would be like this!” The only way through it is through it. But it leads from one maturity to the next, grace upon grace, so that people will also behold the glory of Christ in us, full of truth and grace, with the life of Christ in us, and his loving heart throbbing within us.
These signs of Christ also become our living experience. From a rule and law based-existence, our existence is caught up in the promises of God. We begin to live lives of faith, throwing all our worries overboard and trusting God, who in Christ is a person of his word, keeping his word to us, so that all the promises of our lives come true.
Our enlightenment comes when God opens our ears. As Isaiah says, “Morning by morning God awakens, wakens my ears to hear as an apprentice” that means, learning the skill of hearing. And the Lord God gives me the tongue of an apprentice, so that we can lift up, sustain, the weary and the depressed with a word. When we are born from above out of God we receive new senses, because we become part of the new creation.
And believe it or not, God chose us before the foundation of the world. We were the twinkling stars in God’s eyes even before the world was created, in the words of our epistle. And we do not take our heavenly places after we die, but after we have been baptized and died in the death of Christ, so that by the death of death, we are catapulted into our eternal life right now, here and now is the acceptable time, here and now, we can become enlightened by the light of Christ. We can hear with our ears, see with our eyes, understand with our hearts and say, “Our Father in heaven, let us hallow your name, we willingly let you rule over us, so that we have a foretaste of heaven even here on earth. The foretaste refers to the feast to come. Perhaps a more understandable metaphor for today comes from the movies: we can’t have the feature presentation here, but we can have the preview of heaven’s coming attractions. Amen.
 Isaiah 40:6.
 John 14:20.
 Psalm 36:7, 9.
 From C.H. Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, (Cambridge University Press, 1970), page 90.
 Cf. Isaiah 50:4-5.